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Bliss condo proposal clears another City Council hurdle

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Developers for the proposed 19-story condo in downtown St. Pete are celebrating another win. City Council voted Thursday to uphold its decision to approve a building plan for the high-end condos known as Bliss.

A resident of Parkshore condominiums located behind where the new tower would be erected challenged the building plan, arguing the public was not notified of the hearing.

The building plan had already been approved by City Council, but the developers were making a change by moving an electric generator from outside to inside. The city considered the change minor and therefore was not required to publish the meeting.

Despite what may see as a menial challenge, Michael Levy has more to argue than just the location of a generator. He’s filed a lawsuit against the city arguing that the development exceeds the city’s code requirements for its footprint. That means he thinks the condo will boast more square footage than allowed on the property.

The hearing was quasi-judicial, allowing a representative for Levy and a member of city staff to argue points.

“In this particular case, my client is trying to get the city to follow its own rules,” said Jackson Bowman, Levy’s attorney. “Your staff is leading you into the mousetrap.”

Bowman went back and forth with the city’s zoning official about zoning requirements on the property before being stopped by legal staff. He argued the city is not properly counting all of the development’s area and is grossly under-estimating the total square footage.

However, the city does not require an exact size until the permitting phase, which has not been entered.

“I think a judge is going to blow it up,” Bowman threatened, referencing legal action.

Brian Taub, the owner of the Bliss property, has filed his own countersuit against Levy alleging his interference is holding up financing of the project.

Taub told council members Levy is only fighting to keep the development from going forward because it would obstruct his view from his ninth-floor condo in Parkshore.

Council member Bill Dudley was inclined to agree.

“It does sound like a little bit of a ‘not my backyard’ deal,” Dudley said.

Council member Karl Nurse fired back that Taub has bent over backwards to be a good neighbor.

Taub has revised his site development plan to the tune of $250,000 in additional expense in order to move the proposed parking garage. He will also provide a waiting area outside of the property’s alley where cars can wait for a car elevator to take them to one of four floors in the site’s property garage.

Parkshore owners had argued the original plans would have created traffic jams in the alley as residents waited for one of two elevators.

The planned building would have a narrow footprint providing 30 units; two on each floor. Each unit would be separated by the building’s stairs and elevator shaft so no two units shared a wall.

Each unit would open into its own private foyer. Each unit would also capitalize on downtown views with floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

The exterior of the condo is planned to serve as an interesting eye piece for the city. A zig-zagged landscaping design is planned to run along the side of the building vertically.

According to Bliss’s website, even though there are still legal challenges and other issues pending, all but three units have been sold. The cheapest remaining unit is nearly $850,000 on the second floor on the North side of the tower. A 14th-floor unit on the South side is going for more than $1.3 million.

And for the truly lavish, a two-story penthouse is still available for just under $3 million. It’s a 3-bedroom, 3.5-bath unit spread over 3,700 square feet with a private elevator, two balconies and direct access to amenities on the 19th floor.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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